The death of a child in northern Adelaide is being investigated as a case of possible criminal neglect.
Seven-year-old Makai died on February 10 after being taken to the Lyell McEwin Hospital and later to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
Task Force Prime, which was set up in South Australia after the death of six-year-old Charlie, is now investigating whether the boy’s death was a case of criminal neglect.
The care of his five siblings, aged between seven and 16, is also being investigated.
South Australia police Detective Superintendent Des Bray said a post-mortem examination following Makai’s death identified several serious health issues.
However, he said while the provisional cause of death was unusual, it was not cause for immediate concern.
“The cause of death in itself wasn’t enough to raise concern because it was a serious, recognised health issue,” Mr Bray said.
He said information from various child protection authorities obtained by a coronial direction 10 days after Makai’s death, which was then provided to SA Police in early July, gave his team sufficient grounds to commence a criminal investigation.
“Soon after, investigators began reviewing volumes of material and obtained an opinion from a paediatric expert,” he said.
“They formed the view that sufficient grounds existed to commence a criminal investigation of criminal neglect causing death.”
Investigators will work to determine whether anyone was culpable for Makai’s death or the neglect of the other siblings.
Makai’s father had been looking after him and his five siblings since November 2020, with his mother not living with the family at the time of death.
“There is neglect and abuse which we believe has occurred over a period of time but it doesn’t have all the same characteristics of Charlie’s,” Mr Bray said.
Charlie was found unresponsive in her family home in Munno Para on July 15 and died in Lyell McEwin Hospital of suspected malnutrition.
Charlie witnessed her father, John, stab her mother, Crystal Nowland, 46, in a drug-fuelled rage in their northern suburbs home.
Following the six-year-old’s death, the state government ordered a review of the interactions between the family and government agencies.
Premier Peter Malinauskas on Monday announced a new “wholly independent led review” to investigate both cases.
“The death of any child is something that breaks all of our hearts, particularly parents across the state,” he said.
“One was shocking, two is desperately heartbreaking.”
Mr Malinauskas said he had appointed former SA police commissioner Mal Hyde to lead the review, saying Mr Hyde was “someone every South Australian has complete confidence in”.
“This is about making sure we have a review of integrity, of independence and robustness so we fully understand exactly what interactions occurred between government agencies and these families and to see whether or not there were any failures of systems that could be addressed,” he said.
“Two innocent children losing their lives potentially because of criminal neglect is beyond sad. But we know about it and we have to respond.”
The Premier said the findings of the review would be made public.